Nurses, doctors raise concerns over healthcare delays . . . Chiwenga takes time to implement strategy 

Blessings Mashaya

STRIKING doctors and nurses yesterday raised concerns over the lack of urgency by newly-appointed Health minister, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, and his team in bringing the much-needed change to the health sector, the Daily News can report.
This comes as Chiwenga, over a week ago, tabled before Cabinet a new restructuring strategy aimed at reviving the health delivery system in the country — which included ending the current doctors and nurses’ strike over poor pay and work conditions.
Chiwenga also proposed that the restructuring strategy would be anchored on four pillars, which included the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, ventilators, hospital beds and other essential equipment.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo  said Chiwenga, Health permanent secretary Jasper Chimedza and the government were not taking their plight seriously.
“The new team must do something to make sure that things normalise. They are delaying while people are dying. They have been silent for too long because it’s a month after they were appointed. They must not remain silent like this, it’s high time for them to deal with the health crisis,” Dongo told the Daily News in an interview yesterday.
“Nothing has been done since their appointment. We are yet to meet the minister, but the situation on the ground is very bad. There is need for an urgent intervention. I think the ministry wants cleansing. We are now confused by the government’s approach, they are not doing anything to make sure that the situation in hospitals is improved.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed Chiwenga to replace Obadiah Moyo after he was arrested for alleged corruption involving acquisition of Covid-19 materials.
Since assuming the Health ministry, Chiwenga publicly appealed to the doctors and nurses to return to work while the government looks into their grievances — a call that was rejected. The health workers demanded a one-to-one meeting with the vice president.
“Even the few workers who are still going to work, the government is not giving them PPE. If the government was sincere enough they should have given them PPE. We are saying the government must address the issue of resources if they failed to deal with the issue of salaries because people are dying,” Dongo claimed.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZAHDR) secretary-general Norman Matara said the government must address the issue of health workers on strike.
“The government is not showing any seriousness in as far as addressing the issue of the country’s health crisis is concerned.
“They are not calling for any meeting. At the moment we haven’t seen any improvement since the appointment of the new team and we are still to see any changes although we know that issues affecting the health sector need more time to be resolved,” Matara added.
Efforts to get comment from the Health minister  and his permanent secretary were fruitless as their mobile phones were not reachable.
Recently, the secretary-general of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Aaron Musara, said they were still waiting for Chiwenga and his ministry to engage them.
This comes as more than 300 healthcare workers have been infected with Covid-19 since the country recorded its first case in March this year.
After Chiwenga presented his turnaround strategy to Cabinet, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said: “The revamping of the health system is expected to result in robust medical services. It is expected that the wide ranging reforms will transform the health sector by introducing systems that work in the national interest.”
Speaking publicly for the first time since he was appointed Health minister, Chiwenga himself said a fortnight ago that a new era was dawning for the health sector.
“We are restructuring and reforming our health delivery system. We want to rebuild the structures from village to referral level. Things will never be the same again, but we must work together,” he said.

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